A Melancholy Celebration as Space Shuttle Atlantis is Moved to Her Final Home

On Friday, November 2, 2012, the Kennedy Space Center launch facilities were left without an orbiter in the program for the first time since 1979.

At 6:30am, Atlantis began her 9.8 mile journey from the KSC Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to her new permanent home at the KSC Visitors Center just outside the secure KSC launch facilities. As she rolled out of the VAB for her last mission, she was greeted by members of the team that had cared for Atlantis over the years since being put into commission in April 1985.

There was a palpable sadness in the air — from the Atlantis team that had put so much of their lives into the orbiter; to the press corps that have covered the shuttle missions over the years; as well as the KSC and USA staff involved in so many launches and landings of the beautiful spacecraft.

One Atlantis team member recited this fitting saying, often attributed to Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over – smile because it happened.” It set the mood perfectly in the chilly predawn morning as they watched Atlantis leaving her working facilities for the final time. The workers, some who have already lost their jobs as shuttle operations ended, carried a banner that read “We Made History – Atlantis” as they walked behind the orbiter.

Atlantis team members say goodbye as she is rolled from the VAB for the last time

Atlantis, the last shuttle to fly in space, rode atop 76 wheels on the Orbiter Transporter System (OTS) for her final journey, with a top speed of only 2 miles per hour. The orbiter weight was 154,000 lbs., and with the transporter, the combined vehicles weighed well over 300,000 lbs. as they made their way on the roads from the VAB to the Visitors Center. In order to avoid having obstacles in the way of her move, 120 light poles, 23 traffic signals, and 56 traffic signs had to be removed to ensure a clear path during transport.

As Atlantis travels Kennedy Parkway, traffic lights and road signs had to be removed from her path

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Space Shuttle Atlantis to Make Final Journey at Kennedy Space Center on November 2

Fans of the Space Shuttle Program will have their last opportunity to see Atlantis on the move when it makes its historic final journey on November 2, 2012, at Kennedy Space Center.

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During this trip, Atlantis will travel nearly 10 miles from Kennedy Space Center to its new home at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The move will begin at 7am when Atlantis leaves Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at about 2 miles per hour on the 106-foot-long Orbiter Transporter System. The orbiter will make its way to Kennedy Space Center headquarters where at about 9:45am thousands of current NASA employees and former shuttle workers are scheduled to attend a private event that will include a ceremony to mark the transfer of Atlantis to the visitor complex.

Atlantis will then head to Space Florida’s Exploration Park, a 65-acre area that will provide a festival setting for a half-day event where guests can see the shuttle up close. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana and the space shuttle astronauts from STS-135, the final shuttle and Atlantis mission, are also expected to attend.

Exploration Park will also feature spaceflight and exploration exhibits provided by several space industry partners and NASA, including the Orion Crew Module.

The Exploration Park portion of the day is open to those purchasing the special Explorer Package, which includes regular Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex admission.

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“The final trip of Atlantis will be the very last time anyone is going to see a space shuttle in motion or out in the open, making it a truly unique and momentous viewing opportunity,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, which operates the visitor complex for NASA.

Atlantis will then leave Exploration Park and complete the final leg of its journey, traveling in front of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex along State Road 405/NASA Parkway before entering its new home, a $100 million interactive exhibit complex currently under construction and set to open in July 2013.

In order to make the trip happen, NASA and Delaware North had to remove and replace 120 light poles, 23 traffic signals, 56 traffic signs and one high-voltage power line to make way for the orbiter.

After the approximate 6pm arrival, a 10-minute fireworks show will illuminate the skies of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, providing the grand finale to an extraordinary day.

Explorer Package and regular visitor complex admission holders, through the Rollover Package, can witness the last part of Atlantis’s journey as it enters the visitor complex.

Below are details of the two ticket packages being offered for Nov. 2:

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